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Getting to know 49ers pass rush assistant Chris Kiffin, part 3

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The 49ers new pass rush assistant coach has shown a willingness to mix and match to make things happen.

NFL: San Francisco 49ers at Chicago Bears Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports

San Francisco 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan made an intriguing hire this offseason, adding Chris Kiffin to a mostly returning coaching staff. We don’t know a ton about most of the assistant coaches, but it’s helpful to try and take a dive into whatever is out there. This is the final article of a three-part series (part 1, part 2). I am purposely not including the recruiting violation problems Chris Kiffin had with the NCAA. For the time being, they are not pertinent to his job with the 49ers.

Kiffin worked under Bo Pelini and Ed Orgeron for two seasons as a defensive quality control assistant at Nebraska before moving on to USC where he worked with his father and brother as a defensive assistant. A year later he accepted the defensive line coach job at Arkansas State that was offered to him by Hugh Freeze. Freeze had this to say about Chris at the time:

”Coach Kiffin is very hungry and is going to be one of the rising stars in defensive football.”

A year later, on December 8, 2011, Chris followed Freeze to Ole Miss where he would make a name for himself both as a defensive line coach and as a top college recruiter. His first year as the Rebels defensive line coach, they went from 4.75 tackles for a loss and 1.08 sacks per game to 7.9 tackles for a loss (first in the SEC and fourth in the nation) and 2.9 sacks per game (second in the SEC and eleventh in the nation).

By 2014, through his recruiting and coaching skills, Kiffin had developed one of the deepest and most talented defensive lines in the country. Ole Miss led the country that year in tackles for a loss, scoring defense, and fewest touchdowns given up. I think the defensive line might also have also had a major part in Ole Miss leading the nation in turnovers and interceptions that year too.

He followed up 2014 with big years in 2015 and 2016 as well. I must admit it certainly helps to have lineman like Robert Nkemdiche and Marquis Haynes on your team but you also have to give Chris credit for both recruiting and helping to develop them.

In 2017, both Chris Kiffin and Ole Miss defensive backs coach Corey Batoon moved to Florida Atlantic to work as co-defensive coordinators under Chris’ brother and head coach Lane Kiffin. Together they were instrumental in turning around FAUs defense in a single season. Kiffin and Batoon were willing to mix and match players around the defensive line to take advantage of key matchups.

“That was part of the reason behind hiring (Chris) and (co-defensive coordinator/defensive backs coach Corey Batoon), that I thought they gave people problems at Ole Miss – a lot of times with some lesser talent in some areas than teams they were playing,” FAU coach Lane Kiffin said. “Very multiple.”

Kiffin will work with the defensive linemen and the strong side linebackers to improve the pass rush, according to Matt Barrows. I believe Kiffin’s knowledge and willingness to move players around to create match up problems may be the key to improving our pass rushing defense. He has already talked about our defensive line needing to learn to rush as a team. We could still use a great outside pass rusher but he should help us to improve in the meantime with the players we already have.


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